Attendee Personas 101

March 22, 2017

Kate Dodd

Kate Dodd is the Marketing Manager for Expo Logic. With ten years of conference marketing experience and a BA in Marketing from Pennsylvania State University, Kate specializes in creating company-wide marketing initiatives for events, products and services.

One size fits all may work for hats, but it won’t work for events. Attendees expect event content – and its marketing – to address their specific needs and challenges. They won’t take the time to sift through generalized marketing to find what they’re after and they’ll likely skip your event entirely if it doesn’t resonate.

So how do you speak their language, address their pain points and pique their interest?

What are Attendee Personas?

That’s where personas – sometimes referred to as buyer or marketing personas – can help. Personas are fictional representations of a particular audience segment. Think of them as attendee “profiles” or snapshots of your various attendee types.

Smart event professionals use personas to tailor their marketing messaging, event content, networking components and even speakers to each specific persona. 

The bottom line: if you know what your attendees want, it’s easier to promote content that resonates.

How Do You Develop Personas?

Your Own Data: The best personas are based on research or insights you may already have. Perhaps you have post-show attendee surveys from previous or similar events. Interviews or quotes from attendees about what they liked about your event or high ratings from session surveys can help inform personas. Your own website or registration data can give you insight in terms of what your attendees are clicking on, or if they register primarily via mobile device or desktop.

Start Asking Questions: If you don’t already have some data on your typical attendee, consider surveying or interviewing your attendees. What keeps them up at night? What challenges are they struggling with? Find out what they’re interested in learning – or doing. Think beyond the basic member type data and ask them about their preferences, behaviors and interests – even those outside of business.  

Look for Common Ground: As you collect and analyze your attendee data, commonalities may begin to emerge, such as profession, attendee type or interests. Look for commonalities – and differences. You may see personas emerge that you do – and don’t – want to target. 

Take It Up a Notch: The Event Journey

Consider the entire event journey for each persona. What do they want even before attending your event? Does one persona prefer to register via mobile device or tablets? Is networking particularly important to a persona? Will some personas be especially interested in presentations or resources post-event? Aligning your event to areas of interest for your personas will help you deliver an experience your attendees really want.

Putting it All Together

Now that you’ve developed your attendee personas, use this information to strategically plan your content and marketing.

Event Content and Planning: Attendee personas can help inform the topics, sessions, event activities or speakers you develop for your event. For example, if one of your personas includes a group particularly interested in networking with other attendees, you’ll want to consider events or technologies that facilitate networking

Email Marketing: Using what you know about your attendees will help you craft email content specifically aligned to their interests. Is a persona most interested in educational sessions? Make sure your email to this group addresses those opportunities, CEU credits available and what they’ll learn.

Advertising: Target your advertising to publications your personas are apt to read or to locations your personas frequent. And make sure to customize and target your ad copy as well to make your message much more appealing and effective to each persona.

Blogs and SEO: Mine your attendee personas for blog content ideas! If your largest persona is most interested in job searching, you might consider a blog post on how to write a resume. Use your personas to help with keyword choices as well. If you know your attendees’ primary interests, you can choose keywords they’re likely to use in searches.

Now you’re ready to deliver the right content to the right attendees and take your event to the next level.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.